Thursday, December 20, 2018

Singing the Praises of “A Christmas Carol”

For 175 years now, Charles Dickens’s novella A Christmas Carol has delighted, and inspired, people throughout the English-speaking world. Six years ago, which was 200 years after Dickens’s birth in 1812, I posted a blog article titled “A Dickens of a Good Story” (see here) and I encourage you to read it (again) as well as this new article.  
“The Man Who Invented Christmas”
Les Standiford, an American author/novelist, has written a book titled The Man Who Invented Christmas (2008). It is about how A Christmas Carol rescued Dickens’s career and led to a reinvigorated celebration of Christmas in England and the U.S.
Last month I read Standiford’s delightful book, and then June and I enjoyed watching the 2017 movie by the same name, even though the movie is quite different from the book.
Dickens started writing his short Christmas novel on October 13, 1843, and it was published on December 19. Earlier that year, Dickens had gone up from London and spent some time in Manchester, observing the plight of the poor in that industrial city.
It was at that very time that Friedrich Engels was studying the lives of the factory employees in Manchester. In The Condition of the Working Class in England (1844), Engels described the heart of that city as a place of “filth, ruin, and uninhabitableness.”
First edition cover
Because of his own boyhood days as a child laborer with his father in a debtor’s prison, as well as from his visits to Manchester and the seedy sections of London, Dickens knew well about the problem of poverty—and the gap between the well-heeled (such as Scrooge) and the struggling poor (such as Bob Cratchit and his family).  
As is widely known, A Christmas Carol is about the redemption of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge as the three ghosts he encounters on Christmas Eve help transform him into a man of generosity and goodwill.
Dickens’s delightful story is credited with removing the lingering stigma of Christmas celebrations from 17th century Puritanism and making Christmas a time for family enjoyment and communal generosity.
Altering the Future
In Dickens’s story, Scrooge asks the third ghost, “Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”
And then, understandingly, Scrooge declares, “Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead. But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”
When he awakens after the departure of the third ghost, the regenerated Scrooge proclaims that “the shadows of the things that would have been, may be dispelled. They will be. I know they will!” (p. 80).
And so it was in the story.
And so it can be for us, if we are as willing as Scrooge to change our ways—and here I am thinking more about society in general and not only individuals.
As is widely known, but also downplayed by certain political leaders, climate scientists have issued dire warnings about the “shadows of things that Will be” unless significant changes are made.
An October headline in The Guardian cries out, “We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN.”
These are shadows of things to come—but as Scrooge recognized, “if courses be departed from,” things will change.
Just as Tiny Tim didn’t have to die because Scrooge became a benefactor of the Cratchit family, the looming global warming catastrophe can be averted by the human family changing its current course.

As Tiny Tim exclaims, “God Bless Us, Every One!”—and may God help us, every one, to alter the environmental future by making necessary changes in the new year.


  1. The first comments received this morning are from Thinking Friend Eric Dollard in Chicago:

    "Thanks, Leroy, for reminding us of the wonderful story by Dickens.

    "There is a Disney cartoon version of 'A Christmas Carol' in which Mickey Mouse plays Bob Cratchit and Scrooge McDuck plays, well, Scrooge. (Goofy plays Marley.) It's really delightful; even our grandson (who will be age 4 on Christmas Day) enjoys it.

    "And I agree; addressing climate change is urgent."

  2. Thanks, Eric, for your comments. We haven't seen the Disney cartoon version of "A Christmas Carol." We wish our youngest granddaughter were going to be here over the holidays so we could watch it with her.

  3. Thanks for illuminating the lasting impression Dickens has made on our customs and celebrations of Christmas. Leroy and June, I would suggest that you haven't seen all the Christmas Carol movies until you've watched The Muppet Christmas Carol...and I'm serious about that. It's worthy of watching. It's interesting that this story is still so loved...from the movies, to local productions in nearly every large U.S. city.

    Thank you for also illuminating our need to address global warning. We can stop this. We can also stop poverty and other things which plague the world. We can. We could. But why are we content with people suffering? Is the corporate greed of a few so powerful that it matters more than our human survival? Perhaps we should prepare for mixing our beloved Christmas images with apocalyptic ones. God help us, everyone.

    1. Thanks, David, for your comments and recommendation. (I responded to your comments yesterday morning, but for some reason they did post.) I don't think we have seen this version either; it was released when our youngest child was 20.

      I just now looked at a website that comments on the major movies made based on "A Christmas Carol," and it said that "The Muppet Christmas Carol" is one of "the greatest Christmas movies of all time" and that "it's absolutely one of the best cinematic versions of this story."

  4. Local Thinking Friend Temp Sparkman sent the following comments about an hour ago:

    "What an interesting review of a favorite, made more interesting by the reciting of Scrooge’s words. My guess is that you might well be the only one in blogdom to associate his last word with global warming. And you are right about its importance, because the survival of our existence is at stake. Tragically, that will be the end of history. As far as we know, there is no other world like ours with historians that might note its passing."

  5. Well, Leroy, I thought about climate change while first reading your post, and was delighted to discover you did, too. Then again, I am trying to lead a Green Team at church, which is a slow process. My suggested version of A Christmas Carol is the live version presented most season by KCRep on the UMKC campus. As volunteer ushers my wife and I see it frequently. I am impressed at how powerfully it motivates thousands of people to come see it every year. Still, I worry about it, as it smacks of cheap grace. All Scrooge is really called to do is spend a few pounds on a Christmas party, as his former employer once did for him. Of course, once Scrooge gets into the spirit he give Cratchit a pay raise, and spreads generosity around town. Just like with fighting anthropogenic global warming, fighting systemic poverty is going to take a lot more.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Craig. Ed Chasteen also mentioned that his favorite version of "A Christmas Carol" is the one done by the KCRep, and he & Bobbie have also been volunteer ushers there repeatedly.

      Yes, Scrooge's dramatic change can be seen as an example of "cheap grace"--or tokenism. Yet, as you suggest, he was moving in the right direction. But the fight against global warming is going to take a lot more than just actions of individual people, even wealthy ones like Scrooge. It is going to take concerted public (governmental) action. But, alas, our current Administration is moving in the opposite direction.

  6. The above comments are responses to the question I included in the email I sent my Thinking Friends shortly after posting the new article -- and which I intended to post here as my comments, but forgot to until now.

    In addition to the movie mentioned in the article, in the past month June and I have watched all of the 1935, the 1938, the 1951, and the 1984 versions of "A Christmas Carol" (or "Scrooge"). We were impressed with the 1938 version since it is so old (as old as us!), but we agreed that we enjoyed the 1984 version the most. Which one is your favorite?

  7. Thinking Friend Truett Baker in Arizona today shared the following comment and question:

    "A relevant analogy well taken! What will it take to wake-up law-makers who have the ability to turn this potential tragedy around?"